Natu family: Canberra Times ACT CDS Enviro Champions Competition

It’s no surprise that the Natu family won the Canberra Times ACT CDS Enviro Champion – Individual award. Their astronomical efforts in the ACT Container Deposit Scheme has resulted in 50,218 bottles recycled through the scheme and more than $5,000 donated to charity and community initiatives.

Sisters Arushi, 8, and Avni, 5, are the force behind the container collections. Arushi began collecting containers in early 2021 when she was just six years old, eager to assist COVID victims in India. The money she raised went to a fundraiser organised by her father to supply medical equipment, such as oxygen concentrators and ventilators, to India.

“Australia has lots of oxygen, and India needs oxygen,” She explained.

Arushi was also keen to support the construction of a local Hindu temple, Canberra Hindu Mandir, so that children like her could attend the temple and play together there.

To find containers to return, Arushi hand-wrote letters to her neighbours asking them to save their bottles and cans for her. She also looks for littered drink containers when she goes for walks.

“It’s not very nice to put rubbish on the road, but I am a good spotter at finding plastic,” she said.  

Since 2021, the family have expanded their container collections, including recycling bottles and cans from construction sites in the Molonglo Valley near their home.

“People working on these sites were throwing away recyclable containers, which we managed to pick up in the last two years. We were also able to inform the workers about recycling,” said their father, Ambarish Natu.

The family still donates container refunds to the ongoing construction of the temple. 

When the sisters, found out they had won the Canberra Times ACT CDS Enviro Champion – Individual award, they decided they wanted to spend the $500 prize money on planting a forest.

Ambarish said the two girls initially discussed spending the prize money on treats such as ice cream or new clothes before settling on putting it all towards planting trees.

“In this forest, we will have lots of butterflies, and I can run behind them,” explained Avni.

Arushi plans to ride her bike in the forest and enjoy the green outdoor space.

“The girls were excited to win the award and are now even more inspired to continue collecting containers,” said Ambarish.

The ACT CDS is a partnership between the ACT Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator Return-It.